Video of Black teenagers handcuffed by park police at Minnehaha Regional Park has sparked community outrage. The Facebook video shows two of the four Black teens sitting on the ground, one pleading for his shirt for protection from mosquito bites.
Minneapolis Parks Police Department officers drew guns on and handcuffed the teens in response to a 911 call about a “dangerous and escalating” situation involving knives and guns, said Communications and Marketing Director for the Parks, Dawn Sommers.
The 911 caller said the boys were threatening her boyfriend and one of them claimed to have a gun in his backpack. However, Brianna Lindell, who posted the video, said she witnessed the caller’s boyfriend “spouting racial slurs at [the teens] and aggressing them with a metal trash can lid and saying he had a knife.”
The caller and her boyfriend were not at the scene when police arrived, and no weapons were found on the teens or at the scene, according to an official statement from the park’s department.
The parks police assigned an investigator today to contact the caller and her boyfriend, but have been unsuccessful, said Minneapolis Parks Department Police Chief Jason Ohatta. Because of their reluctance to come forward, Ohatta said, “at this point, there is a chance some of that information was fabricated.” Falsely reporting a crime is a misdemeanor level criminal offense in the State of Minnesota.
“That’s what White people do now, they use the cops as their own personal service,” Lindell can be heard in the video saying in reference to the recurrence of White people calling the police on African Americans barbequing, mowing a lawn, and other perceived offenses.
Three of the teens, ranging from ages 13-16, were released at the scene and one, who was a runaway, was taken to the local Juvenile Supervision Center.
Lindell, who was not on site until after police arrived, said other witnesses of the altercation told her the officers “jumped out of their cars, guns already drawn, with the guns right in the children’s faces.”
The officers involved were wearing body cameras that were activated throughout the entire the incident. Interim Park Superintendent Mary Merrill and Ohatta are requesting an independent investigation of the incident to determine whether park police policies, procedures, and laws were followed.
Ohatta said after the investigation, the department will determine if there is value in releasing the footage to the public. “Our officers work really, really hard to keep our parks safe. I’m sorry that this has eroded public trust and we will work really hard to get that trust back,” Ohatta said.
Minneapolis Park Board President Brad Bourn said he has received multiple inquiries from people about the incident. “The children in the video are safe and with their families,” he wrote on Facebook. “The best thing the Park Board can do is invest in our kids and provide them fun, positive, structured activities to engage in. For the last decade, investment in our youth has been virtually stagnant.”
Bourn also asked for people who may have additional video footage or information to call 612-423-9901 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.